Brunswick Mayor Cornell Harvey was upbeat about the city’s future as he spoke to the St. Simons Rotary Club on Tuesday at Sea Palms Resort and Conference Center on St. Simons Island.
Speaking to the club for slightly less than an hour, he touted the city commission’s recent efforts to revitalize downtown Brunswick and fielded questions from attendees.
“In Brunswick, we’re not pulling back the reins,” he said. “We need to build on our small successes. ... We’re aiming for tangible results.”
The second-term mayor pointed to the ongoing Oglethorpe Conference Center project, a nearly 500-seat meeting space slated to be built in the 1700 block of Newcastle Street downtown. He rejected criticisms about the project and said city staff were conducting due diligence to ensure the project would not be a burden on taxpayers.
“We are trying our best to stand on our own two feet,” Harvey said. “When a baby tries to stand up and walk, no one tells the baby to sit down — they encourage the baby to stand up and walk. We are just asking for encouragement.”
Harvey also discussed the proposed stormwater utility fee, which city commissioners will vote on at their meeting today.
The new utility assesses a fee on every property in the city limits and that money would be used for stormwater infrastructure projects.
“We can say the fee is not a tax,” he said. “But it is money out of your pocket. But people keep saying their stormwater (infrastructure) is bad, and we should fix it. But there is only so much money.”
Under the stormwater utility, all properties would be assessed the fee. Unlike property taxes — from which churches, schools and government buildings are exempt — all buildings, regardless of ownership, will be assessed the stormwater utility fee.
“I have nothing against churches or government buildings, but they pay no taxes,” he said. “This ensures everyone pays their fair share.”
He also touched on the planned Glynn Avenue Design Framework, which would create a specialized zoning overlay district along U.S. Highway 17 between the Sidney Lanier Bridge and Georgia Spur 25. The plan has been in the works for about two years and commissioners will vote tonight on whether to adopt it.
“I’m not sure what’s going to happen,” Harvey said of tonight’s vote on the design framework.
During a question and answer segment, One attendee expressed his concern that Brunswick does not contribute “one nickel” to the Marshes of Glynn Brunswick Library downtown.
The mayor “respectfully disagreed” with the man, and argued that city residents also pay county property taxes, which support the library system.
Also during the session, one attendee asked the mayor what his “secret” is to working with the Glynn County Board of Commissioners was. The questioner implied St. Simons Island residents have had challenges with the county commission.
Diplomatically, the mayor replied:
“I’m just trying to be open, positive, smile and listen. I don’t get everything I want, either. But we’re in this together.”